For Bon Appetit, by Alex Delany.
How do you take your eggs? At the Bon Appétit offices, you will not come across a more loaded question. It’s sparked heated debates, ignited bitter rivalries, and ruined friendships. Alright, maybe not the friendships, but it’s controversial to say the least. There’s the olive-oil-fried camp. The buttery scrambled devotees. The seven-minute boiled obsessives. But there seems to be a cooking method that flies under the radar. Where’s all the love for steamed eggs? Do they deserve our love? What exactly are they? Important questions, my friends. Important questions indeed.
With steamed eggs, contact with ultra-hot water vapor heats the egg in the same way that boiling water or a hot cast-iron pan would. The only difference is that steam will cook your egg more gently, resulting in a more tender egg white and creamier yolk.
There’s more than one way to steam an egg, and each technique has its advantages and applications, from sandwiches to single-serving bowls. We talked with BA’s Chris Morocco to learn a bit more about steaming eggs. Take notes:
Hard Steamed Egg
When I was a kid, there was a strange, circular, metal contraption that lived in a cabinet in our kitchen. I thought it was a hat, but it turns out it was actually a steamer insert for my mom’s big metal stock pots. The steamer insert is the most straightforward way to steam an egg, and it gives you a gentler alternative to dropping and rattling eggs around in boiling water. After your eggs are done steaming for 10 to 12 minutes—depending on how you like them, you can use them in egg salad or just dip them in salt and call it a day.
Technique: Use a metal steamer basket to suspend eggs above ½ inch of boiling water.
Benefit: Far fewer cracked shells and deformed alien-esque growths than a hardboiled batch.
Soft Steamed Egg
Perfectly cooked whites with warm, liquid yolk. That’s what constitutes a perfect egg in my book, but getting there didn’t used to be easy. Now it is. When an egg is cooked this perfectly, don’t do too much. Salt. Pepper. Devour. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Sneaking some bread in there to clean up that yolk is acceptable as well.
Technique: Use a metal steamer basket to suspend eggs above ½ inch of boiling water. Cook for about 6 ½ minutes. Chill in ice bath immediately after.
Benefit: Soft steaming offers a more consistent and thorough cooking method. Your eggs will all be cooked the same, as opposed to some perfectly and some undercooked.
That free continental breakfast that’s served at mediocre hotel buffets across the country probably involves tray-steamed eggs. You know the ones, labeled “scrambled”, but a bit too brick-like and overcooked to carry any real legitimacy. The real deal should be fluffy and sponge-like, like the beautiful brick in Dominique Ansel Bakery Perfect Little Egg Sandwich in NYC, or you could take them out a bit earlier and stir to imitate scrambled eggs.
Technique: Whisk eggs gently with milk without creating bubbles, as you would scrambled eggs, and pour into greased walled baking pan. Cover with foil and place in larger pan filled with ½ inch water. Steam-bake in over for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Slice to appropriate serving size when done.
Benefit: Consistently fluffy and easily portion-able eggs for the whole damn fam. Great for breakfast sandwiches and basically a mattress to cover with a blanket of cheese.
Steamed Egg Custard
If you’ve ever eaten Chawan Mushi (Japanese egg custard, like the uni and white truffle seen at Shunji Japanese Cuisine in Los Angeles), you’ve eaten steamed eggs. Same goes for Gyeran Jjim (Korean steamed egg casserole). In fact, most Asian cultures have a savory variation of a steamed egg custard, possibly with some chives, mushrooms, dashi powder, shrimp, or just about anything else you can imagine pairing with an egg. The eggs take on a pillowy soft texture that cradles just about any additive to be spooned and slurped without abandon. These are best cooked in single serving bowls, so make two if you have a friend… or if you’re just that hungry.
Technique: Whisk eggs with milk, as you would scrambled eggs, and pour into heat-friendly bowl. You can do these either in a steamer on the stovetop or in the same fashion you would for the oven-steamed eggs. Cook until custard is set around the edges but jiggles slightly in the middle, around 10-15 minutes (wrapped in foil) in the steamer or 12 to 17 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.
Benefits: Great for single serving dishes, especially if you have some cool ceramic bowls. Supreme texture, just like the tray steamed version.
You’ve steamed your eggs. Now it’s time to brûlée them.
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